On November 22, a few days after OpenAI fired (and then re-hired) CEO Sam Altman, The Information reported that OpenAI had made a technical breakthrough that would allow it to “develop far more powerful artificial intelligence models.” Dubbed Q* (and pronounced “Q star”) the new model was “able to solve math problems that it hadn’t seen before.”
Reuters published a similar story, but details were vague.
Both outlets linked this supposed breakthrough to the board’s decision to fire Altman. Reuters reported that several OpenAI staffers sent the board a letter “warning of a powerful artificial intelligence discovery that they said could threaten humanity.” However, “Reuters was unable to review a copy of the letter,” and subsequent reporting hasn’t connected Altman’s firing to concerns over Q*.
The Information reported that earlier this year OpenAI built “systems that could solve basic math problems, a difficult task for existing AI models.” Reuters described Q* as “performing math on the level of grade-school students.”
Instead of immediately leaping in with speculation, I decided to take a few days to do some reading. OpenAI hasn’t published details on its supposed Q* breakthrough, but it has published two papers about its efforts to solve grade-school math problems. And a number of researchers outside of OpenAI—including at Google’s DeepMind—have been doing important work in this area.
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